The jury for Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán’s upcoming trial will be anonymous, despite the infamous drug cartel’s promises not to have any of his jurors murdered.
U.S. district Judge Brian Cogan ruled that the jurors’ identities, addresses, and places of employment would be withheld from Guzmán’s legal team, the prosecution, and the press, the Guardian reported Wednesday. Cogan’s decision is in line with requests from the prosecution, which provided a plethora of examples of Guzmán ordering hits during his 20 years at the helm of a drug cartel.
El Chapo’s violent history alone “would be sufficient to warrant an anonymous and partially sequestered jury, but that many of the allegations involve murder, assault, kidnapping or torture of potential witnesses or of those suspected of assisting law enforcement makes the government’s concerns particularly salient,” Cogan wrote in the order.
Guzmán’s defense attorney, Eduardo Balarezo, had previously argued that an anonymous jury would “poison” the courtroom against his client. He argued that sequestering the jury away would imply they had something to fear from the defendant, thereby implying his guilt as well.
“All he is asking for is a fair trial in front of an impartial jury,” Balarezo said in a statement.
Guzmán is currently being held in a super-max facility in Manhattan where he is prevented from having any contact with the outside world. In the past, Guzmán has operated the Sinaloa Cartel from various prisons and jails by manipulating corrupt law enforcement and other inmates. He’s also known to have ordered hits on jurors in the past.
“The defendant has demonstrated the ability to bring substantial resources to bear, even while confined, in his efforts to subvert justice,” prosecutors argued. “He was able to arrange the construction of a tunnel into his prison cell in order to escape.”
Guzmán will return to court for a pre-trial hearing on Feb. 15, but the judge has signaled that the official trial won’t begin until Fall 2018.
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